You are, quite simply, a magical place. With an underlying mystery that can only be understood once you visit. To give you an idea, press play on the video above. It will give you just a taste. Now before I dive into this blog post, I want to preface that it is going to be a bit different than my previous ones. There are no stylized food pictures, nor are there recipes. Instead, I am trying something new. Now, don't you worry! I will still be posting recipes on here, but my heart is telling me to share something more: stories, ideas, thoughts, and images from my life that are not necessarily just about food. It feels right to me and I hope it does for you as well. Of course, I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below, so do let me know what you think. Ok, let's give this a go.
Let me tell you a story.
The story of.... well, my life. Or at least a part of it. The reason for this is to provide you with an opportunity giving you a better sense of who I am and why I am doing precisely what I'm doing today. Embarking on this Hawaii adventure was in actuality a dream come true, an opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, everybody wants these kinds of opportunities to happen to them, right? That's what they say in the movies, ain't it? I guess the one curveball is that we usually have little control over when the darts are thrown our way. So when a friend of mine asked me to be a guest teacher at her off-the-grid retreat center on the big island of Hawaii, I was ecstatic! Well, at first I was skeptical. After talking to her, then, I was ecstatic. I thought to myself, me? Lil ole me? Teaching my very own students photography in one the of the most beautiful places in the world? A place that I had been longing to visit ever since graduating college. You better watch me go!
Let's take a breather real quick though so that I can fill you in on why this was such a big deal for me. Just so you can get a grip on things. You see, when I was a young man, 20 to be exact, I dove into the lifestyle of raw veganism. (It's ok, you can roll your eyes.) This meant my diet consisted of predominantly whole, ripe, raw, fresh fruit. I became infatuated, as I often do with things that interest me greatly, with the idea that nature provides an abundance of fresh food ready to be consumed, with little or no preparation. The idea that you could potentially sustain yourself from only raw foods, delicately hanging from trees or growing in clusters from shrubs truly fascinated me. And it's all I could talk about! Little did I know, this was a great way to alienate yourself from everyone in your life while also creating much concern that you've gone bananas, literally...but that's a separate blog post. The point that I am so sweetly trying to make here is that I immediately realized after embracing a diet celebrating raw fruit, that it was only logical that I should live in a tropical environment. A place with a plethora of fresh fruit and produce, all year round. Aside from my relationship of eating predominately nutrient dense foods all the time, I was also drawn to the idea of living in the healthiest of environments. You see, eating a diet consisting of local, seasonal, wild, and organic fruit naturally lends itself to living in an environment with perfect weather, loads of sunshine, fresh air, and the opportunity to exercise frequently... because you are so busy foraging delicious fruit all of the time! (I know, I know... I'm screaming 'reality check!' over here... But cut me some slack, I was only 20.)
About two years later, I graduated from college, majoring in the practice of studio art (yup, my parents were just thrilled with that one). I had two decisions which thusly unfolded before me: I could go WOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Hawaii, particularly on a fruit orchard, to participate in a work trade and explore the world of eating a high raw foods diet in a tropical paradise. Or I could stay in my college town and begin my career as an artist. I had just been picked up by a local gallery, which as a fresh graduate was rather significant, and I really wanted to share my creative passion. So, I ultimately decided that Hawaii would always be there and that it would be the best decision for me to pursue the opportunity of showing with a gallery and continue my journey as a contemporary artist (with a ton of random side jobs, might I add!). Just a few years later, funny enough, I moved somewhere that happens to be the exact opposite of Hawaii. New York.
Now, I know what you're thinking. New York? The world's largest trash can? Ha! I'm only kidding (not really). What I can honestly tell you after living there is that if you want an abundance of sunshine, fresh air, ripe tropical fruit, and low-stress levels- do not, I repeat, do not move there. *But* if you are looking to grow in an exciting way, learn incredibly fast (my polite way of saying getting your ass kicked), and to be surrounded by some of the most amazing and influential people in the world- then go! That's what I did. (Oh yeah, the Union Square Farmer's Market is pretty epic, I can't deny it.) Anyways, I truly believe it was the best, and right, decision for me at that time in my life. I was consistently making artwork that was selling in galleries and I was most importantly proud of my work. (You can take a look for yourself here.) The next step, for any artist really, is to move to a big city and pave your way. You know.... strike some deals, make connections, shake some hands... that kind of stuff. It wasn't until years later, after fighting tooth and nail, jumping through hoops to make and frame artwork, dealing with galleries never paying me on time, and really just never seeming to get ahead, that I reached a point where I was over it.
(Like, hands up in the air over it.)
Now, please, don't get it twisted. I still wanted to create art. I'm an artist through and through Y'all. Creating is what I do. It's in my blood. But I knew at this point that the art world simply wasn't for me any longer. It was then that I starting my Instagram account. I began pooling all of my creative energy towards creating and documenting food. After all, cooking food had been one of the other most consistent things in my life (aside from making art and listening to music). As I entered my mid-twenties, the raw foods diet that propelled me into veganism transitioned into cooked veganism. Because- potatoes. Ha, I'm kidding (not really), but I do want you to realize that during all of these life transitions, cooking was the one thing that always made me happy. And, I've always been quite good at it, if I do say so myself. I realized this when I was asked to make dishes for friend's dinners, holidays, and celebrations. Eventually, people started asking me for my recipes. Little did I know it would have turned into a cookbook! When it comes to recipes, I'm looking for that excitement when you take your first bite. Or when a dish sends you back into your grandmother's kitchen when you were a child. I find it so very special to recreate these memories with food- especially when I can do it using only plants and mushrooms.
Eventually, it seemed quite obvious that any kind of beautiful plant or nature scene would merge with my newfound medium of culinary art. After all, vegan food is all plants and mushrooms. The non-edible ones are equally as beautiful and also deserve my creative attention just as much as the ones used for gustatory pleasure, wouldn't you agree? I realized that it was incredibly important for me to always be photographing nature while working on my culinary work. Mainly because they go hand in hand- always inspiring each other. One is not possible without the other and I find it important to respect their relationship in my work.
And so, here we are. I'm still an artist, but instead of using raw canvas, oil paints, and photographic film- I've switched to beautiful plants, mushrooms, and the everlasting beauty of nature. It honestly makes an incredible amount of sense. You can ask any one of my longtime friends. They would all tell you that they're not surprised. It just took me a minute to figure it out. Because of this newfound expression, I found myself being asked to teach a photography workshop in Hawaii, focusing on beautiful food and nature, the very reason I was drawn to visiting when the idea first entered my mind. Now fancy that! I only had to struggle as an artist for over 7 years, move to New York, and start an Instagram account to have figured it all out and finally have the opportunity to go to paradise. What a doozy!
One thing I will say- every step has been in the right direction.
Six months after being offered the teaching position, after only one or two phone calls and a few clicks online, I was on a plane to Hawaii. This, of course, was only possible because of my attendees. Without my students, my girls (as I call them now), the trip would have simply not happened. I agreed to only lightly promote the event, as I wanted to keep the workshop small so I could give the students my undivided attention. Fortunately, I ended up with four and they are some of the loveliest people I have yet to meet. I'll be sharing more about the actual workshop on a separate blog post. There, I will talk more about my students, share their portraits that I took, display some of their class work, and talk about details for the upcoming workshop that will be happening next year. Do feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org asking to join my Hawaii workshop for next year. You know I'd love to have you!
It's quite funny how this world works, wouldn't you say? To think that it wasn't until I stopped being an artist, well, at the least what I thought the 'idea' of an artist was supposed to be, that I opened up a glorious world of opportunities that have allowed me to be more creative and productive than I ever have been in my whole life. Thankfully, I'm no longer involved with the cutthroat gallery world where I never truly found satisfaction. Instead, I am fortunate enough to be creative and then share my work with you. My people! I thank you so very much for joining me on this journey of mine. It's lovely to have you here. I truly hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did taking them.
Well, that might be a stretch. But you can at least try.
Well, there you have it! Quite a collection, isn't it? I truly hope that I am able to share just an inkling of her beauty with my images. Thank you for coming by to visit and to take a look. Lastly, I wanted to say that I know I've been MIA here on my blog. To be honest, I'm just figuring out how to balance everything. The main ingredient for anything I do is time, especially enough time to create the quality of content that I'm comfortable sharing. You see, I'm busy working on my first cookbook, the final manuscript is due this winter. It will be loaded with recipes, stories, photographs, and drawings. I'm putting my whole heart into this book, there's no holding back. I carefully choose to reserve only just enough juice in my noggin so that I can maintain my Instagram account and create the occasional blog post. This past trip to Hawaii was my one 'get out of jail free card' if you will. And well worth it. Who would of that I would learn more than all of my students combined on my trip as a teacher? I'm still scratching my head...
If you liked this post, I'm happy to do more. It's much easier than creating a perfectly tested recipe! And I enjoy doing it, really. So do let me know what you think in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.
Until next time, sending you all love, beauty, and, most importantly, delicious food.